Archives for Reflection - Page 2
Earlier this week, I wrote about how Panic About Anxiety was chosen as 'Blog of the Week' on PA Live!, a lifestyle program local to northeastern Pennsylvania and broadcast on WBRE-TV. And now, you don't just have to take my word for it -- I've got video proof! Check it out here. I sincerely hope that it brings a few folks within the viewing area to my blog -- especially my posts about my own struggle with anxiety might help someone to feel a little bit less alone. This is probably the right time to tell you a story about one of my last grad school classes: Intercultural Communication. After a semester of learning about various cultural traditions and value orientations, my professor took a few minutes at the end of our very last class to discuss something personal: living in the moment. It was May, and graduation was right around the corner. The class was filled with undergraduate seniors and second-year grad students -- most of whom were about to be finished with school forever. His speech went a little something like this:
First things first: welcome, WBRE viewers! (And, of course, to anyone else who might incidentally be finding my blog for the very first time.) As you (may) know, I was honored to be chosen as this week's PA Live! Blog of the Week on WBRE-TV. (By "PA", I'm referring to Pennsylvania, my home state -- not "panic attack," which, well, is also my home state. Ahem. Cough. Think about it. Bad joke?) I'll re-introduce myself: I'm Summer. I get panic attacks. A lot. And unfortunately, the panic (and the fear of panic, which is a different beast entirely) has eaten up most of my early, mid, and now late (yikes!) 20's. I've tried meds. I've tried therapy. I've tried biofeedback. I've tried lifestyle changes. I've tried it all.
A few days ago, in honor of National Poetry Month, I asked for your anxiety-related haiku. I love haiku as an art form for describing anxiety. While many of us might think of "anxiety" as a huge and heavy long-term predicament -- and, for some of us, it truly is -- even the largest and darkest mountains of anxiety are built from smaller bricks of haiku-sized worries. Now, I may be mixing my metaphors (bricks don't make up mountains!) in that last paragraph, but oh well. Poetry is about what feels right. And for a concept as complex and nebulous as anxiety, a mixed metaphor feels strangely appropriate: anxiety doesn't cleanly fit into any given metaphor. It's always changing. So, let the metaphor change along with it. Even within the same sentence. To hell with that "don't mix metaphors!" rule that I learned in 11th grade. There's only one rule we're following here on Panic About Anxiety for National Poetry Month -- we're writing haiku. A haiku is a short & simple poem that's written 5-7-5 -- five syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the middle, and 5 syllables in the last line. That's it. The rest is up to you. YOUR HAIKU You've given me some beautiful haiku throughout the past few days. Here's a sampling of my faves:
It's hard to believe that April is here already, isn't it? Isn't time tricky? Surely I was just lamenting the onset of winter and grumbling about how the lack of sunlight contributes to my anxiety. And in the blink of an eye, our natural word is glowing brighter and brighter each day. Here is Pennsylvania, March came in like a lamb and left like an even softer lamb. You won't find me complaining. Nor would you find legendary poet e.e.cummings complaining, either. He's a famous poet who was smitten with the springtime season: spring is "puddle wonderful," he claims, in his poem "[in-Just]". Remember that cranky English teacher you had in 10th grade? The one who was always correcting your grammar? Yeah. e.e.cummings is the exact opposite of that English teacher: if you Google a few of his spring-themed poems, you'll quickly notice how quirky and inventive his syntax is. His whimsical punctuation alone sort of conveys the hypomanic beauty of this season: spring!may -- everywhere's here ( with a low high low and a bird on the bough ) how?why we never we know -from Poetry, June 1952 April is the perfect time for warmth, aliveness, and poetry. And so, happy National Poetry Month!
I am typing this blog post outside on my deck. The temperature? 74 degrees. The scenery? A backyard tree that's bursting with baby leaves, a just-about-to-flower rhododendron bush in a terra cotta pot, and a cloudless and sunny sky that's got me smiling. The sounds? Wind chimes, a few birds, and some kids yelling and playing soccer down the street. It is unmistakeably springtime. Winter has been long and unforgiving for many of us. For me (and perhaps you), it's also been a time of great anxiety. The short days, the lack of sunlight, the bitter cold...everything about winter serves to shut us indoors, it seems, and away from our natural world. But it's finally time to emerge from those fluorescent-lit caves that we call home during the coldest months. It's time to get back outside and reconnect with nature after avoiding it for so long. Here are a few ideas to get yourself in sync with our natural world again:
A few weeks ago, my friend Vicky came to visit me for the day. A friend of mine from high school, she still lives in the same town where we grew up. When it came time for her to leave, I decided to go home and visit my dad for a surprise visit. For the first time in...well, YEARS, I drove a car -- alone -- along the back country highway that connects me to my hometown of Kingston, PA. Vicky followed behind me, just in case, and promised to pull over if I flashed my brakes for help. The lack of cell phone reception and the disappearing evening sun had me nervous, but I did it. I made it to my father's house. Knowing that Vicky was driving right behind me was so crucial to me surviving the trip without issue. And when I drove back to the lovely little town of Williamsport in which I reside, I did...okay. I was completely alone and I tried desperately to NOT think about that fact. I made it about 3/4 of the way before I panicked.
Allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Summer. I've got that panic disorder thing with a side of agoraphobia. It's been awhile since I've written a truly personal blog post. I'm not sure why. After all, one of the primary reasons I started this blog was so that I can share the details of my many panic & anxiety foibles with the world. (Wait: "foibles" is too weak a word. Debacles? Episodes? Situations?) And my dream is that you'll read about these situations, identify with them, and feel comforted knowing that it's not just you. It's you, and me, and him and her and her and that guy and that woman and that child and this teacher and that mechanic and that group of students over there. And many, many more. In truth, I've been doing very well lately. And by "very well," I mean this: I can survive a grocery store trip. Sometimes, I don't even need Xanax! Imagine that.
(This is the ninth post in a series called “Anxiety Society” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) A few days ago, we met Larry Nocella: blogger, novelist, and anxiety sufferer. We left off discussing Larry's "brutal and merciless" internal dialogue -- a formidable opponent to his mental health -- and how his antidepressant medication didn't help to lighten his self-criticism. Instead, he said, he tackled that piece on his own. Summer: I like how your described your inner dialogue as "brutal and merciless." It's so accurate. I think a lot of us -- both anxiety and depression sufferers alike -- are incredibly hard on ourselves. The pushy statements we make toward ourselves would probably NEVER came out of our mouths if they were directed toward a friend! Once you identified your inner dialogue as being too harsh, how did you stop it from being hyper-critical? Was it just a matter of becoming more aware of it, or did you take any kind of extra step? Larry: Mostly becoming more aware. I used to not pay any attention to my mental state, but now I'm very conscious of how I feel and what I think, especially toward myself. The extra step I took was this: I kept thinking of what I would say to someone if they were as harsh on themselves as I was being to myself. I'd say things like, you're only human, you're expecting too much, don't be so hard on yourself. So I just applied that to myself.
Today was a drag. I'm all wound up. My brain is mush. Meet the metaphor: a literary technique that allows us to represent not-so-tangible things (like the feeling of a tired, overworked brain) with tangible things (like "mush"). They help us to understand complex topics. To draw an example from George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's book Metaphors We Live By, argument is war. In an argument, as in a war, you can win. You can lose. You can gain ground or lose it. Your claims can be right on target or they can miss the mark. You can shoot down someone else's idea. This week, Brain & Language published some new metaphor-related research. Psych Central's news team reported their findings: In a new study using brain imaging, investigators discovered a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard. A textural metaphor is, well, a metaphor that uses a tangible texture to represent a not-so-tangible concept. Let's say you had a rough day. You didn't stick sandpaper up to today's date on the calendar, did you? Nor did you spend the whole day dragging your hand on a rough surface. When you claim you've had a rough day, you're using the word "rough" to describe the more abstract concept of difficulty.
(This is the sixth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) I talked with Ashley Taylor, a certified hypnotherapist in Easton, PA, earlier this week about the basics of hypnotherapy and what to expect during sessions. (Turns out, hypnotherapy is nothing like that silly spectacle of stage hypnosis.) Today, we discuss what hypnotherapy can do specifically for anxiety sufferers. Our conversation continues below: Summer: For someone coming in to your hypnotherapy practice with an anxiety-related issue (say, a fear of highway driving), what kinds of affirmations or therapeutic techniques would you employ? Ashley Taylor, CHt: For any phobia, I would first attempt to understand the initial sensitizing event. Often with phobias, we see there is always an initial event that has caused the fear. So, in this case, perhaps the individual witnessed or was involved in an accident on the highway. For the affirmations, I might say that any old, outdated, unproductive information is no longer beneficial or pertinent to you now. As far as a therapeutic technique, I would suggest exposure therapy so that the individual can face their fears with someone beside them in the vehicle -- someone they trust. So, who should try hypnotherapy? Do you think it's a good first step for someone experiencing anxiety and panic? Do you envision it more as a complimentary treatment?